This United Nations handout photo shows Stephen O'Brien, outgoing Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, as he briefs the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Yemen in New York. Image Credit: AFP

United Nations: UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator, Jaime McGoldrick, has accused Al Houthi insurgents and troops loyal to deposed president Ali Saleh of derailing relief work in Yemen in the areas they are still controlling, reported the Saudi Press Agency, SPA.

According to the agency, McGoldrick said that, for months, humanitarian agencies have had to put up with delays on the part of Al Houthi rebels in facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid workers into Yemen, leading to serious hurdles in the delivery of assistance and the hijacking of aid vehicles.

Senior officials of the world body have also called for the Security Council to push for a political solution to the more than two-year-old conflict while warning in no uncertain terms that the suffering in Yemen’s man-made catastrophe could take a turn for the worse.

“Death looms for Yemenis by air, land and sea,” Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to Yemen, Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad, told the 15-member Council in New York.

Reiterating one of the key points raised by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, who addressed the Council just moments earlier, Ould Shaikh Ahmad said that diseases and epidemics are spreading at unprecedented levels in Yemen.

“Those who survived cholera will continue to suffer the consequences of ‘political cholera’ that infects Yemen and continues to obstruct the road towards peace,” added Ould Shaikh Ahmad.

He noted that while the international community is united in its support of a peaceful solution, certain parties to the conflict take advantage of internal divisions and focus on personal interests.

“What is missing at this point is for the parties to the conflict, without any delays, excuses or procrastination, to demonstrate their intention to end the war and put the national interest above any personal gains,” the UN envoy said.

Every day spent without serious action means more destruction and deaths, as well as the spread of terrorist groups, such as Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and “uncontrolled migration” through the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, where more than 41 refugees died in early August after being forced to abandon their boats and jump, Ould Shaikh Ahmad said.

O’Brien, in his statement, sought to highlight distinct signs of progress in Yemen before the conflict, like fewer people going hungry and rising rate of school enrolment.

“All of this has now been sharply reversed,” he said, noting that 17 million Yemenis are hungry, nearly 7 million are facing famine, and about 16 million lack access to water or sanitation.

O’Brien highlighted several key challenges, including a funding shortage — the $2.3 billion (Dh8.4 billion) Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan is only 39 per cent funded. He also underscored the interference posed with respect to the movement of critical commercial and humanitarian supplies and staff. “De facto authorities in Sana’a or local officials in areas under their control block, delay or otherwise interfere with humanitarian action,” he said.

He urged the international community to ensure that all ports in Yemen are open to civilians, besides commercial traffic. He called for those governments and individuals with influence in Yemen to prevail on the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian and human rights law and to strengthen accountability.

With 1.2 million public employees not paid regularly for months, O’Brien also urged that civil servants’ salaries be paid without further delay so that the basic services in the country do not collapse. “This human tragedy is deliberate and wanton, it is political and, with will and with courage, which are both in short supply, it is stoppable,” he said, reiterating the UN’s ongoing calls for a political solution to the conflict.